Philly is a great weekend getaway, whether you’re traveling as a couple or solo. Downtown is safe, walkable and easy to get to if you’re on the eastern seaboard. Here are the top ten historical sites to see, all within a six-block area of downtown. Plan to spend the day taking in a dazzling amount of U.S. history and eating some great food. You may want to split up the sites listed below into a two-day itinerary, depending on how much time you plan to spend at each site.
It is advisable that you get a hotel or bed and breakfast in the downtown area, so that you can walk to the sites. Wear comfortable walking shoes and get ready to open your eyes to the events of the American Revolution, how our country was founded, and beyond!
Here are the top ten sites to see on your historic tour of Philadelphia:
- Reading Terminal Market
This is one of America’s largest and oldest markets, located since 1893 in the current landmark building on the corner of 12th and Arch Street (near the convention center). People come here to buy produce, meats, cheese, baked goods and more, but it is also a great place to grab a quick meal or drink. You can choose from cheesesteaks, burgers, deli sandwiches, chicken, middle eastern food and more. When I was there, I had the best roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwhich that I’ve ever had, old school Italian style, at the counter at Tommy Dinic’s.
2. Independence Visitor Center
At the Independence Visitor Center you can get tickets to see different sites, informational brochures, and have your questions answered at the information desk. It’s also a convenient pit stop for snacks, drinks and restrooms. Everything on this list is located within a six block radius from here.
3. The Liberty Bell
You can’t miss a stop to see the Liberty Bell, one block down between 5th and 6th streets. A visit to the Liberty Bell center is free, and it will teach you about how this bell became a symbol of liberty for all. You can see exhibitions, a film, and of course the cracked Liberty Bell itself. The reason why it is cracked has not been recorded, but most likely after 90 years of hard use, small cracks and repairs that did not go well caused it. This is the bell that originally hung in the Philadelphia State House (now Independence Hall) and rung in the congressmen for assembly.
4. Independence Hall
This building used to be the Pennsylvania State House, and it was here that congressmen such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson assembled to debate and sign the Declaration of Independence. The draft that Thomas Jefferson wrote was adopted on July 4, 1776 (Independence Day) and the document was signed on August 2, 1776. Eleven years later The United States Constitution was signed here (September 17, 1787).
Independence Hall gives free tours every 15 minutes but depending on the crowds you may have to wait in line. The tour will take you through various rooms, including the courthouse which used to be the nation’s Supreme Court, and the Assembly Hall where both documents were debated and signed. The rooms are set up in the furnishings and signing implements of the time, so you can stand there and image what it might have been like to be in the room when history was being made.
5. Benjamin Franklin Museum
The exhibits in this museum are divided into five rooms, each which explores a different trait of Benjamin Franklin. One of the founding fathers credited with drafting the Declaration of Independence, he was also a scientist, inventor, philanthropist, and businessman. The interactive exhibits immerse you into the life and times of one of the most important men in American history.
6. Museum of the American Revolution
Explore the diverse people and complicated events that sparked the American Revolution and ponder America’s ongoing story in the pursuit of liberty, equality and self-government. The museum hosts several exhibits, programs, and events throughout the year.
7. Betsy Ross House
Betsy Ross is famed for having made the first American flag, but the story of her life is also a fascinating look into the life and struggles of women in her time. The house she lived in, built over 250 years ago, is now a museum however tickets are required for entry.
8. Elfreth’s Alley and Museum
As you cross over on Arch street and then up to 2nd street you will reach Elfreth’s Alley. This is an ally that was built in 1703 to provide a convenient route to the docks. Over the past three hundred years it has been preserved as a national historic landmark, and is an exceptional example of early American structures. This is the place to snap a photo and feel what it might have been like to live in colonial America. If you have time, plan a visit to the Elfreth’s Alley Museum for stories, historical pictures and more.
9. National Constitution Center
If you continue up a few blocks you will come to the National Constitution Center, which can be a nice place to sit down and rest your feet for a bit while you watch an engaging multi-media presentation on how the constitution came to be. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
10. Franklin Square
Next to the National Constitution Center is Franklin Square, which is a park and another place where you might want to unwind a little. There is a carousel and attractions for kids, but on a nice day it is also just a place to find a seat around the central fountain and relax. If you’re hungry after all that history, getting a burger and fries at SquareBurger is a must-do.
With so much to see and learn here about the founding of our country, the day is certain to go by fast and keep you amazed. There is much more to see in Philly, so make sure to plan another trip back!
If you go….
Hotels: There are many affordable hotel and bed and breakfast options in downtown, start by checking out www.visitphilly.com .
Reading Terminal Market: See here for a full list of merchants at the market.
Independence Hall: For more information see here.
Benjamin Franklin Museum: For more information see here.
Museum of the American Revolution: For more information, see here.
Betsy Ross House: For more information, see here.
Elfreth’s Alley Museum: For more information, see here.
National Constitution Center: For more information see here.
Tommy Dinic’s [51 North 12th street, (215) 923-6175]
SquareBurger [200 North 6th street, (215) 629-4026]